New Orleans Saints Running Back Deuce McAllister
Legends Video Call with New Orleans Media
Wednesday July 1, 2020
We asked (Jonathan) Vilma this yesterday, but where do you think the 2020 Saints prior to taking the field on paper rank among some of best teams the Saints have had over the years?
"On paper? I think that's the biggest issue. On paper I think it is going to be ranked right up there at the top. I'd probably put it as a top three maybe even top two. The hardest thing to go back and do is go back and look at the 2011 team and I saw the conversation and just the analysis. The hardest thing to go back and do is you knew what that team was. You actually saw it. We can go back and compare and just look at the numbers and the things that they were able to accomplish, but this team on paper, this team could really challenge a lot of things that that team did, but unfortunately we don't play it on paper. And then the other thing, my concern and my worry with this team is the injuries and then how will not having an offseason truly affect them."
How do you think the Saints did last year working Latavius Murray into that running back rotation and what are you expecting to see out of that group this year?
"I want to see more. I think that's the biggest thing. When (Murray) received his opportunity, he was able to excel. He was able to really go out and produce and you just want to see more of it. I think that was probably the biggest thing, that you just go back and look at this overall season, they probably should've used him more and obviously I know (the) game dictates what you can do and what you have to do as far as that's concerned. At the end of the day, you have to be able to try to get him the football and maybe not just as a runner because we saw him catch the football out of the backfield probably more so better than he did in Oakland as well as in Minnesota. So as a receiver, I think he's a viable option, but you've got to lean on Alvin (Kamara) for the majority of those opportunities, but I think also you can use him in that manor. As a pure runner, you've got to figure out a way to get him 10 to 12 to 15 touches, legitimate touches, in a football game."
What's it been like for you as a guy who's been retired for a decade now to see what's happening with the way that the running back position is being valued with contract negotiations and free agency?
"They are not getting paid. You have very few of them that have been able to raise that number as far as the average of running back is concerned and it's truly more of a specialty. What do you do? Can you be an every down back? You have a couple of guys that are doing that are doing that, but it's more of a specialty in the league and that's really because of the rules and how you can protect the quarterback and advance the football quicker or faster through the air. You understand that and so as a running back, you either have to have some versatility or be a truly elite ballcarrier and then you have to hope you can get to the playoffs so it really can payoff. That is what it is really all about. Once you get into that dance as far as the playoffs are concerned, you know that your possessions are going to be limited, the weather will normally have to play a factor and you're going to kind of lean on the things that you feel like you can do best. The other part of it that we often sometimes forget is what can we take advantage of as far as the matchups are concerned. Not to say that that doesn't necessarily happen in the regular season because it does, but it's amplified a lot more once the playoffs hit."
You mentioned injuries with this team. Is that one of your bigger concerns is just some of the injury history with these guys and how they stay healthy? Do you think that's kind of the thing that they need to overcome?
"Yes, I think so. I think there are two critical spots, linebacker and tight end. I know you were able to address a little bit of it as far as free agency as well as the draft's concerned, but at the end of the day, when you are depending on some of those younger guys to come in and step up, that is tricky. Then you have two guys coming off (season-ending injuries) in the linebacker room. You lose A.J. Klein so the question becomes how do we address it? Dennis (Allen) will get creative with the ability to have some of those safeties (involved). Yes, they can play a little bit more nickel, a little bit more dime, but you have got to get teams in long-down situations because if not they are just going to run it at you and so that is a concern. It has to be a concern. You wonder how (Marcus) Davenport's progressing. You wonder how Sheldon's (Rankins) truly progressing. Now they're able to get these guys in the building. Most of these guys have been in the building already, but you talk about once the games start, how are they going to hold up?"
How crazy is it for you to think about how long you've been out of the game and that Drew (Brees) is still playing and playing at a high level?
"Drew is the old man in the room, the old man in the building. It's amazing to watch him be able to go out there and do it and I think it shows you how well he's prepared, how he's changed, not only how well he works out, but what he eats, what he consumes. And then for him to be able to say, look, my body is okay, I think I can give it another run and then truly commit to it, I think that's probably the most amazing part about it just because of the player that he is. Look, he's not the Drew Brees of 2011, the Drew Brees of 2006 either, but I think he's still good enough and he's still an elite enough of a player that can command the huddle, has the respect of the players and then the question is can he go out and do his job effectively. That's the biggest question. You listen to Sean (Payton) and how they will manage his throws, how they even may manage some of the games he plays in. Look, we all know Drew, Drew is not going to want to miss one play. Drew, this one is over, you are up 21 and there are ten minutes left in the fourth quarter, get out. That's not him. He's preparing from a physical standpoint and a mental standpoint to be able to finish the game, but sometimes they have to protect Drew from himself in that instance just because he is so competitive."
If there's no crowds in the stadium and the defense can hear every single word the offense says all year long, does that become a challenge to protect your calls and the stuff that you're saying at the line and do you have to protect against that as an offense?
"It becomes a challenge, but I think also you'll see a lot more hand signals as well. I think that's one of the things that they can do fairly easy and then what's interesting is they were probably going to do that anyway because of the situation in Carolina with your backup quarterback (Teddy Bridgewater) as well as with the new OC (Joe Brady) over in Carolina so they were going to change a lot of that anyway. If there's no crowd in there and defenses can really hear your checks and really hear your calls, man, they're going to have so many dummy calls in there. It's going to (be) ridiculous where he's just out there saying one word, he's just out there saying letters. Some of that maybe true, but Sean (Payton) has always had words that you listen to or listen for and this may be a hot word this week. Last week, it might've been something else. The key thing for Drew (Brees) and the receivers and the backs (is) he'll give them a little reminder of something and then he will always, based off of coverage or based off of something they see, he will have a hand signal that he can give to that receiver or that back and it'll be like clockwork. That's probably the thing, the advantage that will have, if that's the case, because most of them have been together so long. Emmanuel (Sanders) will pick it up, but the other guys it'll be an easier transition for them."
Are hand signals easier to protect because you're showing them while guys are trying to get lined up or is there difference?
"He uses those hand signals now. Some of them, like I said, they may change week to week just depending on what they see and who he is giving that hand signal to. That is the other thing as well, certain guys you knew you had to get their attention for them to be able to see it or there may be a miscommunication. You go back and you look at the last game against Minnesota, there was a signal given and just have to go back and look at it, I'm not going to (say what it was), there was a signal and we missed it. I'll just put it like that."
How confident are you that the NFL is going to pull off a season this year?
"I think we're just taking it day by day. I think we're all just preparing and thinking that, yes we will go forward, but I do think there will be some type of an adjustment. I saw some of the articles out there where teams are thinking about flying out the same day, as far as (for away) games. Certain west coast teams, yeah it would be impossible to kind of pull off. You're talking about a Pittsburgh situation where they took the train once, but it may have been a preseason game. Where they took the train down and maybe they played Washington or Baltimore or something like that, but it has been done before"
If you were still playing what would be your biggest concern heading into the season since the NFL can't really have a bubble like the NBA?
"Testing, what's our protocol? Are we testing every player? Are we texting the immediate family of that player? What is the protocol that we have? I know from an organizational standpoint and the NFL standpoint that is what they are working on. But that is the biggest fear and we talked about this me, Kristian (Garic) and Bobby (Hebert) the other day on the radio. It's one thing to kind of say, hey, look this player can go ahead and get the virus and he'll be okay in 14 days. Every NFL player's not perfectly healthy. There are a ton of guys that play this game and they have some underlying conditions that they are dealing with. So it would be a big risk to say and this is even in the college world. It would be to say that all those guys get the virus now and we can get it out of the way. It's just not that easy and it's a risk in and of itself. But I think the biggest issues is the testing and what mandates are in place to kind of protect those individuals as well as some of the coaches. Because it's not like every coach is under 30 or in that range as far as from a health standpoint. Those guys are even going to tell you their dealing with some underlying health issues. That would probably be my biggest worry or fear and those are some of the conversations that they are obviously having currently, right now, before you even get together as group as far as training camp is concerned."
How closely are you watching Drew Brees knowing that this year or next year may be his last and what are your thoughts on Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill?
"You are watching it close, but I guess the biggest problem is we cannot see anything. We're watching videos and going by word of mouth as far as how both of those guys are doing, particularly in the offseason. I think that is probably where you'll give the biggest advantage to Taysom (Hill). They are doing exactly what we are doing, Microsoft teams (meetings). They're doing some things as far as on the board and talking and going through it. But that's still not me working with Pete Carmichael, Joe Lombardi, Sean Payton and you may get with him for a day. But nothing like what you would have done if you got with them as far as an OTA's concerned. Will watch it closely, but it will not be what we truly think. Either of those guys would've progressed if they had an offseason."
What does it mean for you to grow up near New Orleans and to not only play for the Saints, but to then get to stay and do the radio color analysis?
"Man it is a unique blessing for me. Most of you that have followed me and know me, I would not say New Orleans was the first place I wanted to go. I thought that I'd be off the board a lot sooner and quicker or faster than pick 23. But it ended up being a true blessing in disguise because my family got to see me play. Look man, I played my high school ball, college ball and I played my pro ball all within probably about a five and a half (hour) window, as far as driving's concerned. That doesn't happen a lot and so it ended up being a true blessing. And then to be able to, like I said, have my family and friends have that opportunity to where they could drive and see me play. That doesn't happen often. Then to have the opportunity to talk about the game and be involved with the organization. You are truly humbled, you are humbled by it, but at the same time for me I know that I want to go out there and prove and show a knowledge standpoint of some of the things I learned. A lot of times you may question why aren't you coaching? Why aren't you teaching more as far as the game is concerned? Because I feel like I had some of the greatest teachers of the game, as far as football is concerned. Obviously, with Sean (Payton), Mike McCarthy, Coach (David) Cutcliffe from a football standpoint they were some of the best teachers that you can imagine to have and so that's one of the things that I want to be able to give back. Just to be able to share some of the knowledge and things that I see and am able to understand. For myself, it was just truly a blessing in disguise because of that draft in 2001, there was no way that I would have figured I would have been there at pick number 23."
You think all the stuff you learned from those coaches helped you up in the WWL Radio booth?
"No doubt about it. I mean just from a formational standpoint, a situational standpoint, from what they are thinking. I think that has definitely helped me. One of the things, probably two or three years ago that I wanted to improve on was just a defensive side of the ball. Talking to coach (Dennis) Allen and talking to Mike Nolan just picking their brains and obviously JV (Jonathan Vilma) was on (one of these). As a former player one of the things I wanted to do with him when we were playing was, hey look, this is what I'm thinking and this is what I'm seeing, how do you react and what are you reading? And so just being able to pick some of the guys that you truly know and you trust, as far as what they are seeing and what they are understanding. I think that just brings you closer together as far as a unit is concerned and from a knowledge standpoint it gives you an edge. In this game from a talent standpoint, not to say you're all the same, but there's not a true gap, as far as range is concerned or as far as talent. It's the knowledge and how quick can I process something. It's from an understanding of situational football, what individual can process that and how can he take that and use it to his advantage."
What are your thoughts about the running backs behind Alvin Kamara, especially Latavius Murray?
"I think they're fine as far as the backs behind him. I know in just talking to coach Joel (Thomas) they're always trying to find a guy that can come in and fill a role. They are always looking for that and are always going to find a guy and what's his role and what's our vision for him and that's what Sean (Payton) always talks about as far as a player. What is our vision for him? I think one of the unique things that you see them do this past year and really the last two years and go back to Boston Scott, was if this player goes down do we have someone in the building or on the practice squad that we can bring in and kind of plug and play. You don't want to have to be from a drastically (different) standpoint, from an offensive game-planning standpoint, where you have to change everything completely. You may get away from (what you typically do) a few plays if Alvin isn't available. You may get away from a few plays that he does really well. That goes back with Sean when me and Reggie (Bush) were playing and so you always want to have a guy in the building that may not be on an elite talent level, as far as Alvin is concerned and Latavius is concerned, but you have somebody that can do maybe a little bit of what they do and it doesn't change so much philosophy wise, from an offensive standpoint. The guys that are behind them, as far as those two guys, I really think they will have a role and it'll be interesting because you have to remember, there are only so many that you can dress and there's only so many that you can keep as well. It'll be interesting to see how many true tailbacks they keep and then how many fullbacks they will have on that roster. But I think they are fine as far as guys they have behind them."